Last week, as one of their “Isolation Stories”, ITV featured Eddie Marsan as a fictional Dad at home with his two sons (played by the actor’s real-life sons aged 14 and 11) during lockdown. In the course of the 15-minute drama it became clear that the parents’ marriage had ended (the boys’ Mum was living elsewhere with another man) and the Dad was struggling with the end of the marriage, his wife’s infidelity and his role in the breakdown. This fed into his views about her seeing the boys – at one stage he refers to her having made her bed and now having to lie in it. It appeared that arrangements had been agreed (the boys had been due to go to their Mum at Easter) however they were locked down with their Dad whilst their maternal grandfather tried to cheer them up from the garden and gently encourage the Dad through the glass to let them see their Mum (as a footnote the story did not explain why the boys could not go out to see their Mum at her home, but it was implicit they were unable to leave – of course the government has made it clear that children can move between their separated parents’ households).
The programme highlighted that there are parents who are using the lockdown to prevent normal child arrangements without immediate threat of penalty in many cases whilst the courts are discouraging anything but the most urgent applications.
Sadly, it also highlighted, that there are cases where separated parents are unable to see past their own feelings about a relationship breakdown and this (consciously or subconsciously) can impact on their attitude to child arrangements rather than focusing on what is in the best interests of their children.
Ultimately, the Dad in this story was able to be child focussed and the film ended with the Mum touching the boys’ hands through the glass of the bi-fold doors and with a feeling of hope that once the lockdown ends normal arrangements will resume.
Whether separated or separating, parents should always be encouraged to consider the best interests of their children – there is no one size fits all solution. Whilst understandable, particularly in the early stages of a relationship breakdown, it is rarely beneficial for adult feelings of betrayal or sadness to influence that thought process. It is hoped (although this will be impossible in every case) that as the country comes out of lockdown and into the new normal reflection and perspective will lead to more parents truly focusing on their children.